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Bar Admissions & Exam

4 Bar Exam Study Tips

Dayna Smith


  • Whether you are taking the bar for the first time or taking it again, it is important to utilize and adapt the study skills you practiced in law school to prepare for the bar.
4 Bar Exam Study Tips

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You made it through law school, and it is time for bar prep! Whether you are taking the bar for the first time or taking it again, it is important to utilize and adapt the study skills you practiced in law school to prepare for the bar. Here are a few tips for creating an effective and efficient framework for studying for the bar exam.

1. Create a Study Schedule That Touches the Key Pillars of Bar Prep

Bar prep consists of three components:

  1. learning the law,
  2. memorizing the law, and
  3. practicing.

While there can be some overlap between these, each needs dedicated time and attention in your study schedule. And, for each subject, you need to know for the bar exam, you will need to learn, memorize, and practice. This is no small task!

When you log into your commercial bar course for the first time, you will see resources to learn the law—outlines, videos, explanations, etc. You will also see opportunities for practice in multiple-choice problem sets, self-graded essays, and essays you submit for feedback. But what about memorizing? Your bar prep company cannot do memorizing for you, which leads us to our next tip.

2. It Is a Closed-Book Exam—Dedicate Time to Memorization

The bar exam, as you know, is closed book. That means you will need to remember and apply multiple areas of law from memory, making memorization a key component of your studying. However, it seems to be one of the most neglected areas of bar prep, simply because many commercial bar courses do not explicitly tell bar studiers to spend hours memorizing the material; bar studiers skip straight to practice problems after watching the lectures. Prioritizing memorization time is key to success on the bar exam. That extra time spent memorizing the law will benefit you on the multiple choice—where you will need to remember and apply many different rules and exceptions—and on the essays—where you will need to write comprehensive rule statements from memory to apply to the provided fact patterns.

How you memorize the material is specific to you, but what worked in law school is a good starting point for memorizing information for the bar. You may want to experiment during the first couple weeks of bar prep to find your preferred style, and you may find that different

subjects call for different techniques. Whatever your technique, dedicating a few hours a day to memorization will benefit you on the exam.

3. Be Active with the Material

Most law students have experienced opening a case book, reading a case, and then realizing that they did not know what the case was about. Sound familiar?

Because there is so much to learn, memorize, and practice during the limited time you have for bar prep, you want to avoid this situation at all costs. One way to stay engaged is to be active with the material. For example, as you watch the lectures, take notes, and fill in any provided worksheets. As you read the outlines for the first time, pause after each section to quiz yourself. When you work on memorization, do not just read and re-read the outlines; instead, make flashcards, rewrite rule statements, try to recreate the outlines from memory, make mind maps—anything to keep yourself engaged! Being active with the material will help keep you focused and help you internalize the material.

4. Track Weaknesses and Strengths, and Then Adapt Your Approach

Throughout your studies, you should monitor your weaknesses and strengths. Some commercial bar prep programs will help you do this by showing you the results of practice sets broken down by specific topics. This data can be extremely helpful in shaping how you spend your time memorizing each subject. For example, if your practice results show that you missed the duty rule for children five times, you need to make a note to revisit that rule during your memorization time.

The same is true for strengths—although you should never skip or stop reviewing a topic entirely! But, if you see that you are acing all the contract remedies practice questions, you can reduce the time you spend actively memorizing those rules and instead plan to review them less frequently. By tracking your performance on different topics, you should also see improvement over the weeks of studying, which can be a great motivator.

If it is not specific enough or you do not get broken-down results, you should keep track of how you are doing independently. An effective way to do this is by simply breaking down multiple-choice problem sets. For every question you do, you should write out:

  • whether you got it right or wrong (including if you guessed!),
  • the rule statements involved, and
  • the subject and topic of the problem tested.

Doing this type of breakdown helps you understand and track which topics you are struggling with, and it helps with memorization because you have written out the relevant rule statements. Once you have completed a few problem sets in the same subject area, take some time to review your notes to find trends that can help inform your studying.

Ultimately, studying for the bar will push you to find new ways to engage with the law. You will never know more than you do the first day you enter the exam room. It takes dedication, flexibility, and innovation to find a sustainable study plan that works for you, but focusing your efforts on learning, memorizing, and practicing with these tips will help you set yourself up for success.